Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
Programme Descriptions
Research Resources


  • The power of touch

    Dahl, EH (Elsevier, 2020-04-04)
  • Diagnostic performance and usability of the VISITECT CD4 semi-quantitative test for advanced HIV disease screening

    Ndlovu, Z; Massaquoi, L; Bangwen, NE; Batumba, JN; Bora, RU; Mbuaya, J; Nzadi, R; Ntabugi, N; Kisaka, P; Manciya, G; et al. (Public Library of Science, 2020-04-03)
    BACKGROUND: In sub-Saharan Africa, a third of people starting antiretroviral therapy and majority of patients returning to HIV-care after disengagement, present with advanced HIV disease (ADH), and are at high risk of mortality. Simplified and more affordable point-of-care (POC) diagnostics are required to increase access to prompt CD4 cell count screening for ambulatory and asymptomatic patients. The Visitect CD4 Lateral Flow Assay (LFA) is a disposable POC test, providing a visually interpreted result of above or below 200 CD4cells/mm3. This study evaluated the diagnostic performance of this index test. METHODS: Consenting patients above 18years of age and eligible for CD4 testing were enrolled in Nsanje district hospital (Malawi), Gutu mission hospital (Zimbabwe) and Centre hopitalier de Kabinda (DRC). A total of 708 venous blood samples were tested in the index test and in the BD FACSCount assay (reference test method) in the laboratories (Phase 1) to determine diagnostic accuracy. A total of 433 finger-prick (FP) samples were tested on the index test at POC by clinicians (Phase 2) and a self-completed questionnaire was administered to all testers to explore usability of the index test. RESULTS: Among 708 patients, 67.2% were female and median CD4 was 297cells/mm3. The sensitivity of the Visitect CD4 LFA using venous blood in the laboratory was 95.0% [95% CI: 91.3-97.5] and specificity was 81.9% [95% CI: 78.2-85.2%]. Using FP samples, the sensitivity of the Visitect CD4 LFA was 98.3% [95% CI: 95.0-99.6] and specificity was 77.2% [95% CI: 71.6-82.2%]. Usability of the Visitect CD4 LFA was high across the study sites with 97% successfully completed tests. Due to the required specific multiple incubation and procedural steps during the Visitect CD4 LFA testing, few health workers (7/26) were not confident to manage testing whilst multi-tasking in their clinical work. CONCLUSIONS: Visitect CD4 LFA is a promising test for decentralized CD4 screening in resource-limited settings, without access to CD4 testing and and it can trigger prompt management of patients with AHD. Lay health cadres should be considered to conduct Visitect CD4 LFA testing in PHCs as well as coordinating all other POC quality assurance.
  • Learning from a massive epidemic: measles in DRC.

    Ducomble, T; Gignoux, E (Elsevier, 2020-03-31)
  • Suspected paracetamol overdose in Monrovia, Liberia: a matched case–control study

    Haidar, MK; Vogt, F; Takahashi, K; Henaff, F; Umphrey, L; Morton, N; Bawo, L; Kerkula, J; Ferner, R; Porten, K; et al. (BioMed Central, 2020-03-30)
    Background- A cluster of cases of unexplained multi-organ failure was reported in children at Bardnesville Junction Hospital (BJH), Monrovia, Liberia. Prior to admission, children’s caregivers reported antibiotic, antimalarial, paracetamol, and traditional treatment consumption. Since we could not exclude a toxic aetiology, and paracetamol overdose in particular, we implemented prospective syndromic surveillance to better define the clinical characteristics of these children. To investigate risk factors, we performed a case–control study. Methods- The investigation was conducted in BJH between July 2015 and January 2016. In-hospital syndromic surveillance identified children with at least two of the following symptoms: respiratory distress with normal pulse oximetry while breathing ambient air; altered consciousness; hypoglycaemia; jaundice; and hepatomegaly. After refining the case definition to better reflect potential risk factors for hepatic dysfunction, we selected cases identified from syndromic surveillance for a matched case–control study. Cases were matched with in-hospital and community-based controls by age, sex, month of illness/admission, severity (in-hospital), and proximity of residence (community). Results- Between July and December 2015, 77 case-patients were captured by syndromic surveillance; 68 (88%) were under three years old and 35 (46%) died during hospitalisation. Of these 77, 30 children met our case definition and were matched with 53 hospital and 48 community controls. Paracetamol was the most frequently reported medication taken by the cases and both control groups. The odds of caregivers reporting supra-therapeutic paracetamol consumption prior to admission was higher in cases compared to controls (OR 6.6, 95% CI 2.1–21.3). Plasma paracetamol concentration on day of admission was available for 19 cases and exceeded 10 μg/mL in 10/13 samples collected on day one of admission, and 4/9 (44%) collected on day two. Conclusions- In a context with limited diagnostic capacity, this study highlights the possibility of supratherapeutic doses of paracetamol as a factor in multi-organ failure in a cohort of children admitted to BJH. In this setting, a careful history of pre-admission paracetamol consumption may alert clinicians to the possibility of overdose, even when confirmatory laboratory analysis is unavailable. Further studies may help define additional toxicological characteristics in such contexts to improve diagnoses.
  • Implementation of community and facility-based HIV self-testing under routine conditions in southern Eswatini

    Pasipamire, L; Nesbitt, R; Dube, L; Mabena, E; Nzima, M; Dlamini, M; Rugongo, N; Maphalala, N; Obulutsa, TA; Ciglenecki, I; et al. (Wiley, 2020-03-27)
    OBJECTIVES: WHO recommends HIV self-testing (HIVST) as an additional approach to HIV testing services. The study describes the strategies used during phase-in of HIVST under routine conditions in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). METHODS: Between May 2017 and January 2018, assisted and unassisted oral HIVST was offered at HIV testing services (HTS) sites to people aged ≥ 16 years. Additional support tools were available, including a telephone hotline answered 24/7, HIVST demonstration videos and printed educational information about HIV prevention and care services. Demographic characteristics of HIVST users were described and compared with standard blood-based HTS in the community. HIVST results were monitored with follow-up phone calls and the hotline. RESULTS: During the 9-month period, 1895 people accessed HIVST and 2415 HIVST kits were distributed. More people accessed HIVST kits in the community (n = 1365, 72.0%) than at health facilities (n = 530, 28.0%). The proportion of males and median age among those accessing HIVST and standard HTS in the community were similar (49.3%, 29 years HIVST vs. 48.7%, 27 years standard HTS). In total, 34 (3.9%) reactive results were reported from 938 people with known HIVST results; 32.4% were males, and median age was 30 years (interquartile range 25-36). Twenty-one (62%) patients were known to have received confirmatory blood-based HTS; of these, 20 (95%) had concordant reactive results and 19 (95%) were linked to HIV care at a clinic. CONCLUSION: Integration of HIVST into existing HIV facility- and community-based testing strategies in Eswatini was found to be feasible, and HIVST has been adopted by national testing bodies in Eswatini.

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